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Masonic Encyclopedia

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T. S. G. A. O. T. U.

The brief article entitled GOD on page 409 (see also page 1035), and which states that belief in God is a Landmark of the Order, is one with which critics can find no fault--unless it be that it is better to employ the Masonic name for the Deity, which is The Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. The distinction made bar that name is not altogether an idle one, as a subsequent paragraph will show.

In neither this nor in any other encyclopedia or book about Freemasonry (and for Freemasons) would it be suitable for a writer to undertake to expound a doctrine of God; the Fraternity itself has never (lone so, nor has any Grand Lodge, nor does the Ritual, because Freemasonry is clearly conscious of the fact that it is not a church or a handmaid of one, has no theology of its own, and espouses no set of religious doctrines--not because it is indifferent to religion, but because its work lies in another field.

If this be true (and Freemasons over the world unanimously agree that it is) how explain the fact that belief in God is a Landmark, that a Volume of the Sacred Law lies open on the Altar, that Chaplains lead the Craft in prayer, and that those who go in Search Thor That Which Was Lost know that immortality is one of the secrets in that for which they are Searching? Is it not a self-contradiction to proclaim as with one breath that Freemasonry has no theology of its own, and then to proclaim with the next that each and every Mason believes in T. .S. .G. .A. .O. .T. .U. .? The solution of that apparent contradiction is found in a number of facts Which are implicit in the Craft, and which must therefore be searched out, and assembled, and interpreted:

1. Freemasonry does not believe. and for centuries has not believed, that religion is or ever can be a private property owned by any one religion or church or theology or creed. It belongs to men without qualification or exception solely in their capacity as men. and it is there for each man to use without asking another man s consent. It is religion which brings churches into existence; it is not churches which create religion. If Freemasonry has the right to use religion although it is not a church it is because it is composed of men and men anywhere have the right to use religion.

2. In the Middle Ages it was universally believed that work was a disgrace. The Church taught and acted on the dogma that it was a curse pronounced on men as a punishment for the sin committed by Adam and Eve- the aristocratic classes did not believe that men belonged to a single humanity but that God had created it in species, so that men in one species (or " class ") were " made of a different stuff " from men in another, and that this is true forever Servile and mental laborers belonged to the bottom-most class, and were bought and sold as serfs or slaves; intelligent, skilled workingmen, among whom Masons were numbered. belonged to a class slightly above them; and this caste system was carried out in customs, social life, marriage, money, laws, etc.

God Himself was the chieftain of the highest class (French poets addressed Him as Beau sire Dieu) and any thought that He would work, or put forth effort was held to be blasphemous; He ruled by fiat.

Freemasons denied this whole Medieval dogma about work and the working man, in practice as well as in thought, and among themselves, and in their Lodges, taught that work is the highest estate of man, that to be a working man is to stand above drones and parasites. that the tools and clothing of their work were more honorable distinctions than badges and titles; they even taught-- and it was for this reason that priests and monks were opposed to them-- that work is one of the Divine attributes; that God himself is a worker. This is the significance of their name for Him, The Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe.

3. An Apprentice was a youth, and in some ninety per cent of instances came from what were called " the lower classes, " nevertheless he was led to the center of the Lodge Room and there was told to stand Upright before the Altar, and was taught that he meant to God what any priest, or king, or noble. or any other man meant, he " needeth not to be ashamed " of being a workman because in God's eyes it was impossible to be in a more honorable station. Thus there was rooted in Freemasonry a genuine, a universal. an absolute democracy of men, a democracy grounded in the nature of God, and when Masons sale that belief in God is the first Landmark, and "the fundamental doctrine of the Craft" this is what is meant, and that doctrine. again, is enshrined in the title of The Sovereign Grand Architect of the Universe. The democracy of the world is not one of privilege but of nature, men are in a universal brotherhood because "of the way they are made " and the fact has nothing to do with sentiments and ideals." We are members of the same body, brothers in blood and bone, whether we like it or not, and can be nothing else.

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